Schools that probably won’t work for everyone by Rob Campbell (@robcampbe11)

So the Second Edition of the current Government has set out its stall and if the rumours are to be believed, it very much reflects the stamp of the Prime Minister as much as (and possibly even more so) than the Secretary of State. The Green Paper, launched back in September, has attracted much discussion and debate. Not being shy to voice its opinions, the HTRT has pulled together a submission that reflects its collective views. So what are they?

Families who are just about managing
We recognised this policy proposal as a laudable ambition. Those in receipt of FSM have been much better served in recent years, with the introduction of the Pupil Premium and a singular focus on the needs of disadvantaged children, families and communities. There is much about this new group which is well-meaning and it would be good to look at this category when developing policy and reflecting on the impact of provision in schools. However, we estimate this could involve something in the region of 3-million low-income families which in some schools could comprise the whole of its roll. Far better would be the recognition that these families are best served by an education system that works for all, not just the most advantaged. 6/10

Independent schools running state schools
The Green Paper details many ways in which these schools already work with state schools and we would wish to see this develop further, where appropriate. Whilst there have been successes in setting up free schools, others have been less so. We believe the existing framework is sufficient and would want to see this encouraged further. Whilst (some) independent schools were established as charitable trusts to educate the poor, that practice has diminished over the years so that they have become, in the main, the preserve of the wealthy and privileged. We believe that now is the time to change and to remove the charitable status from these bodies, with the funds released used to support the most disadvantaged schools in England. Regrettably, the UK has become one of the most unequal societies in Europe and we should be campaigning more actively to reduce the gap between the wealthiest and the less advantaged.  3/10

Our university system is rightly highly regarded and sought-after by young people from here and abroad. Can an expert in higher education become an expert in running special, secondary or primary schools? They are different beasts as the head of the University of Oxford suggested in September 2016:
There are many existing partnerships and collaboration between universities and schools, some of which will have impact on school level attainment. However these too often rely on enthusiastic university staff to establish and then operate with the goodwill of school staff. Some university staff see such activities as a distraction from research which is the way they secure their funding. If this was better supported or funded, we believe it would develop further. The same is true for widening access, where specific activities aimed at FSM or children from families who barely manage would be supported and acknowledged by government. We also believe that this work must be properly resourced and commence at a younger age; raising aspirations cannot start early enough for some.
The Green Paper is written with the idea that universities might charge higher fees as part of this support for schooling. However, we are concerned that such a plan might prevent disadvantaged children from progressing to higher education because of concerns over raised fees. We ought to be promoting greater social mobility than introducing further measures to prevent this occurring.  5/10

Selective schooling
The most prominent and controversial aspect of the Green Paper: the HTRT was wholly united in its opposition to this toxic policy.
Disappointingly, the Green Paper was accompanied by an announcement that precious funding is to be made available for the expansion of grammar schools. This does suggest that the further promotion of selection is a foregone conclusion. We hope not. Furthermore, this comes at a time when schools are seriously struggling to balance budgets and to recruit teachers. We had hoped the Government respond more strongly to this rather than provide a distraction on the expansion of selection.
The existence of grammar/selective schools is an historical curiosity and linked to some peculiar local contexts whilst the evidence of the benefits of grammar/selective education is limited. Studies have shown that there is some (small) attainment benefit for individuals, but overall the impact on social mobility and educational disadvantage is overwhelmingly negative. Only those pupils from poorer backgrounds with high prior attainment will meet the entry requirements of a selective school. The proposals will do nothing to address inequality for the most. The evidence strongly suggests that these children are already well-served by comprehensive schools.  By contrast the proposals will not serve the majority of pupils with lower prior attainment as they will not meet the entry criteria. -10/10 (minus 10)

Faith schools
Too challenging for us! We recognise there are highly inclusive faith schools and there are those which are not; similarly there are non-faith schools who are exclusive in character. As an organisation we have a membership that comprises both faith and non-faith school leaders. We therefore proposed not to answer these questions!  x/10

And so?
A disappointing Green Paper with some laudable intent but too many flaws and at least one policy which is simply toxic…in our view, it is paper which would not offer an improved system and certainly one where schools would not work for everyone.  Overall score: 1/10

2 thoughts on “Schools that probably won’t work for everyone by Rob Campbell (@robcampbe11)

  1. Neil Morris December 29, 2016 at 9:38 am Reply

    Enjoyed this post and what about grading fiasco 9 -1 syllabus not written fair funding crucial to my Worcester school

    • headteachersroundtable December 29, 2016 at 5:46 pm Reply

      Funding article to come on January 1st 2017. 9-1 resonates – it was the EBCs proposed in Autumn 2012 which drew us together. The implementation of the new curriculum and assessment has been a challenge on many levels for so many colleagues and students.

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